The NFL Just Took the Next Step in Determining Colin Kaepernick’s Future

Over three years after his most recent NFL game, the Colin Kaepernick saga recently reached a new low. Although he has not officially retired, the league’s official website listed Kaepernick, a former star on the 49ers, as a player who hung up his cleats.

Whether or not the error was intentional, it is one the NFL needs to address. The error also served as a reminder of what’s next for Colin Kaepernick‘s playing career.

Colin Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since January 2017

Even the most casual NFL fans are familiar with the Colin Kaepernick saga. A record-setting quarterback at Nevada, Kaepernick — a second-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 — rose to prominence when he led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance after the 2012 season.

Kaepernick led the 49ers to another NFC title game in 2013, although he lost to the rival Seattle Seahawks. A dangerous dual-threat quarterback, Kaepernick eventually earned a lengthy extension from the 49ers.

Regime changes and a down 2015 season, though, set the stage for Kaepernick’s possible departure. Those plans were accelerated in August 2016 when Kaepernick kneeled for the national anthem in protest of racial injustice.

Kaepernick also created controversy when he wore socks featuring pigs in police uniforms. The veteran quarterback also defended Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Although Kaepernick threw 16 touchdowns to four interceptions in 2016, he completed just 59.2% of his passes and the 49ers cut him after the season.

The NFL and its 32 teams have tried distancing themselves from Colin Kaepernick, who held an open tryout last season. Kaepernick has not played even a practice down for any NFL team since January 2017.

The league’s official website listed Kaepernick as retired

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL since January 2017. The league recently called Kaepernick 'retired' on its official website.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since January 2017. The league recently called Kaepernick ‘retired’ on its official website. | Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Colin Kaepernick recently re-entered the news cycle when the NFL’s official website listed him as retired. The website recently underwent a redesign.

Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa, pointed out the gaffe in a strong Twitter message. She said the NFL, the NFL Players Association, and Commissioner Roger Goodell intentionally lied by listing Kaepernick as retired.

The NFL changed Kaepernick’s status to UFA, or unrestricted free agent, after Nessa’s tweet went viral.

The NFL has not issued a public statement explaining the situation, as of May 23.

Intentionally or unintentionally, the NFL made its feelings on Kaepernick clear


Before Colin Kaepernick, There Was Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf Who Shunned the National Anthem

It is worth noting the NFL may not have intended to list Colin Kaepernick as retired. A coding algorithm may have seen he hasn’t played since 2016 and isn’t currently on a team before it automatically listed him as retired.

The website, for example, listed former Dallas Cowboys receiver Lucky Whitehead as retired. Whitehead, like Kaepernick, hasn’t played in an NFL game since 2016.

Whitehead, though, is still active in the Canadian Football League.

That excuse only goes so far, though, given Kaepernick’s stature and relationship with the NFL.

The league and its coders could have avoided this issue by flagging Colin Kaepernick’s name during the re-design and making sure the site showed him as a free agent. Anything otherwise would have, and did, led to controversy.

Even if the NFL issued a statement apologizing for the gaffe, it doesn’t change the reality of Kaepernick’s professional football future. The 32-year-old was already considered a long shot to ever play in the NFL again.

Now, the NFL’s algorithm, unintentionally or not, said the hard part out loud: Barring an unexpected change of plans, Colin Kaepernick has played his final NFL down.